Vanessa Abrahams-John, J.D.
Chief Diversity Officer, Director of Talent Acquisition
After a 15-year legal career, Vanessa Abrahams-John assumed a global diversity and inclusion leadership role at Praxair Inc., one of the world’s largest industrial gases companies. “Diversity and inclusion was a corporate value Praxair wanted to strengthen and the organization was seeking an internal candidate to leverage knowledge of the business and critical relationships,” she explains. From senior legal counsel, Abrahams-John became the firm’s chief diversity officer and director of Talent Management. “Though I didn’t seek the change in my career path, I wholeheartedly embrace the challenges of continuous learning, continually influencing culture shift across business lines, working with senior leadership and stretching myself out of my comfort zone,” she says. “Shifting from a tactician to strategist and change agent allowed me to change the way I work and the way I lead. I now think about setting a vision for the people I work with so they are inspired to keep the culture around us one of inclusion and equity for all.”
Embedding this value into the fabric of the organization is her biggest challenge. “The underlying issue is, why should a successful company focus on enhancing its cultural capabilities?” she muses, and responds: “The key asset in any successful company is its people, and companies should always challenge themselves to foster a culture where everyone from different backgrounds is included and leveraged for maximum impact on its bottom line.”
Abrahams-John graduated from the University of Western Ontario in Canada and holds a Juris Doctor, summa cum laude, from Howard University School of Law. She is a board director for Bronx Bethany Community Corp. and AMBYESE Yes I Can Program. Along with motherhood and family, her professional life and Jamaican heritage, she cherishes time spent cooking, reading and traveling globally. “Cooking is a way to artistically and culturally express and share my heritage with family and friends,” she says.